I don’t know how many of you are like me – I suspect many of you are – in that you give up so much of yourselves sometimes that you feel like you haven’t left anything for yourself. You help out a friend here, care for your family there, clean the house, work your job, volunteer for this, assist with that – and by the end of the day or the end of the week, you feel like you have been attacked by a roaming party of teenage vampires and were too tired to fight them off.
Somewhere in the Christian ethos, we have been taught that serving others means that you should never care for yourself. Somehow, we have convinced ourselves that God will “fill our cups” even as we crack them to pieces before God’s eyes. Somehow, we have gotten it wrong.
In so many places in Scripture (and in the Scriptures of other faiths, too), we see our God and our mentors rest. God rests on the seventh day of Creation; Jesus takes time to walk away from the crowds; Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree; and I’m sure that if I knew other traditions I would find examples of Shiva resting and the like. It seems even our gods need to take replenish themselves.
So what is it here that makes us feel as if when we are not working, not literally draining ourselves of our life’s energy, we are being lazy? Is it the legacy of John Calvin here in the West? Is it some lack of worth that we feel that drives us to fill our time with things that make us feel important or valuable? I’m not sure what makes us live this way, what makes me tempted to return to this pattern as I approach the start of another school year, but I do know that I must fight this temptation. I must learn to care for myself so that I can, in turn, care for others.
Here are a few things I do to help myself rest:
1. I meditate and pray every morning that I can by sitting quietly on the floor of my office and just listening to my heart and the heart of my God.
2. Most mornings, I try to do an hour of writing and an hour of yoga before I “start” my day. The writing keeps my spirit alive, and the yoga keeps my body fresh.
3. I read books that I really enjoy and that sparkle against my soul. I just started River Jordan’s Saints in Limbo, and it made me cry in Chapter 1.
4. I listen to great music like Sufjan Stevens or Over the Rhine.
5. I take walks, slow walks where I can absorb the nature around me.
6. I stare off into the space. Anne Lamott said that people need to spend more time on the couch spacing out, so I try to follow her advice.
7. I sew – cross stitch and crochet – while I watch stuff on Netflix. It’s relaxing for my mind since it’s so rote, but in the end, something beautiful comes of it.
8. I spend time with the people I love and try to be real with them. I get close to friends who replenish me because they need more of me than that I be myself.
9. I read Scripture and find God’s promises in the pages.
10. I am learning to pause and think before I say “yes” to something, and when it doesn’t seem “right” or when it seems like I will be overwhelmed, I say “no.” Wow!
What do you do to sustain yourself? Do you go for climbs or hikes? Do you push your kids on a swing so that their feet crash together in glee? Do you cook? Do you play with your pets? Or make music or paint? Where do you find God’s sustenance for you?